The Savage Mountain, Nevado Salkantay

"Wild, Uncivilized, Savage, Invincible...Savage Mountain"

Tuesday, October 17, 2007: Soray Pampa Base camp, Cerro Soray is in the back ground along with a mini market stand.  My nausea still hadn't subsided by breakfast time so I had only liquids for breakfast, which was not a good way to start a long day of hiking, but I was in good spirits.  The dog in the pictured followed us from Challabamba from the previous day in hopes for scraps.  The dog actually followed us over the pass until lunch on this day! That's a hiking dog!

Our faithful horses and mules grazed as we had our breakfast as well. We were soon to become best friends.

The trekking crew! I remember everyone except for the guy to the left of the guy in the cowboy/brimmed hat.  He wasn't in our group but I think he was talking with the Canadians when we took this picture so he just jumped right in.  To correct my previous post there were two Australian couples.  The only people not pictured here are our guides, Alex, Santiago and Edwin.

C'est Moi
After breakfast and group pictures, we started to hike up to Nevado's Salkantay's pass.  This is my ultimate FAVORITE hiking picture.  I love how insignificant and small I look compared to Salkantay, God's creation is magnificent.

Boulders anyone? 
An hour or so into our hike, I was nearly gone, no drive, no energy, nothing left to hike.  I walked 15 minutes and had to stop and rest.  I have always thought hiking was all mental and I was going to hike up Salkantay but I was hiking so slow and falling way behind.

Back of the line.....nothing left, walking with Edwin.
Edwin and Santiago told me it was probably a good idea to put me on a horse to the pass and I agreed reluctantly.  I needed to rest and get some food in my belly and not hike a couple of thousand feet in the sky. So I layered on some more clothes as my horse got prepared to carry me to the pass.  As I got on the horse I felt liked I failed, I wanted to cry but I did not.  I really wanted to hike and not ride a horse up Nevado Salkantay....especially on my first backpacking trip.  One day I will go back and kick that mountain's butt.

Santiago, myself, and my ride the horse.
I smiled for the picture but I was very sad inside.  To this day my motivation for almost every hike comes from failing to hike Nevado Salkantay, but now I understand hiking is not really about a destination but about the journey.  In retrospect I really enjoyed riding that horse and getting to know Edwin.  At this point +Jesse Avery tried to hike as fast as Edwin and the horse but he couldn't keep up so we were separated for a few hours.  This is Jesse's recounting of his portion of his alone hike up the killer switchbacks:

"The pass was brutal, an ascent of 2,000-3,000 feet, going up to 15,000-16,000 ft.  It was high, the air was thin and I'd spent nearly an hour busting my butt to keep up with Melissa's horse and the caught up with the rest of the group.  Anika and I finished together, walked twenty feet, caught our breath and walked another twenty."

This was my view of the switch backs, riding my horse.  I liked my horse, he was really small compared to all the horses I've seen my entire life.  Edwin explained to me that those are the kinds of horses they use in the mountains.  The horse was somewhat stubborn because he kept stalling on the switchbacks so Edwin had to make horse noises to make it move and I had to kick it with my feet.  I was timid to kick it but it was mostly like "hey get moving!" kick.  The funny thing about the horse was that it farted a lot and it smelled, both Edwin and I laughed a lot!

Edwin was probably a few years younger than me, reminded me of a little brother.  This was his fourth or fifth trek that he had done with +Llama Path.  He was a timid young guy but we had good conversations which put me back into good spirits after being put on the horse.  We saw the porters across the valley taking an even harder shorter trail to get ahead of the group, I took a picture and the porters yelled across the valley, "One dollar!!". We all had a good laugh...

My hiking buddies, Edwin and my horse!
I was a little scared riding the horse because I never really rode horses before and the trail was very steep.  I also really didn't have anything to hold onto, since Edwin was guiding the horse.  We stopped at some point on the trail and I was left alone with the horse while Edwin ran up and down the trail checking on  the status of everyone.  Very impressed with Edwin's hiking skills.  The horse went to the cold mountain stream and quenched its thirst, once again I was reminded of the horse being like a giant dog.  I was able to have some snacks and get some calories in by this point.

Killer Switchbacks
My picture of the switchbacks came out blurry but I wanted to show how steep the mountain was....there was no way I could have hiked up the mountain in the weak condition I was in.  When I arrived at the pass of Salkantay, hot coca tea was waiting for me.  This was the view at the pass...

Cold was an understatement.  I had to wait at the pass for the rest of the trekkers but more importantly wait for my hubby, +Jesse Avery, I missed my forever hiking partner!  I decided that I was going to walk down the trail to see if I could see Jesse and call out to him.  15,000 plus feet in the sky was weird, trying to take breaths and not feeling like I had enough air, getting winded with a few walking 20 feet was strange.

Two other girls had to ride the horses up the mountain and one of the Australian guys made it to the pass, but was obviously sick.  He threw up at the pass and sick for the next two days.  Combination of altitude sickness and stomach bug.  The savage mountain was a truly living up to its name, not only were people struggling to hike it but it was windy, raining a little bit.  Not more than five minutes after Jesse had his coca tea did the skies started hailing on us like crazy.  Alex, our main guide, hurried us along to start hiking down the mountain because he knew the weather was going to get worse.  A few days later, we met a trekker from a different trekking agency who was right behind our group almost every day, said when they passed Salkantay 30 minutes later than us, they had to hike in a foot of snow....I was glad that I could start hiking again with my love!

Day two was so long, I can't even finish it in one post!
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